What struck me as really interesting was the way Dawkins frames the battle between science and unreason. He views his struggle as a defense one:
...Reason and a respect for evidence are precious commodities, the source of human progress and our safeguard against fundamentalists and those who profit from obscuring the truth.The emphasis is mine. Though I respect the project Dawkins has devoted himself too I think the idea that "New Atheism" is just a response to new attacks from unreason is pretty far-fetched. If anything it's a new offensive by atheists which overtly breaks the old truce between science and religion that gave each their own Nonoverlapping Magisteria. Dawkins refusal to politely respect religious beliefs destroy this pact just as surely as a Federation Cloaking Device.
Yet, today, society appears to be retreating from reason.
Apparently harmless but utterly irrational belief systems from astrology to New Age mysticism, clairvoyance to alternative health remedies are booming.
Granted, this truce is being attacked from the other side too. The view that the revealed truth of God can over-rule testable hypotheses is not confined to the New Age faith-healers.
Here's another theory of what's happening. Most people who hold these unscientific positions aren't stupid or gullible, they've just been raised with beliefs that humans are all too prone to accepting. The religious community has always herded it's friendly non-threatening casual believers with hard-core uncompromising evangelists/bishops/imams. Could it be that the atheist community has only recently gained enough adherents to support their own version of the uncompromising take-it-to-the-logical-conclusion type leader that has been the staple of religion for thousands of years?